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AFoCR Completes Major Project to Rebuild Sokol Gymnasium Destroyed by Industrial Explosion in West, Texas
 
November 20, 2015, marked a major milestone in the recovery of West, Texas.  The Sokol West gymnasium, for which ground was broken exactly one year before, was dedicated in a joyous celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony.  The Sokol gym, along with a significant portion of the town, was destroyed in the April 17, 2013, explosion of the West Fertilizer Plant.  Shortly after this tragedy, AFoCR Chairman Fred Malek went to West to assess the damage, and rebuilding the Sokol gymnasium has been a major project of AFoCR over the past two years.  AFoCR Director Fritz Duda, a Dallas real estate developer, actively assisted in the design and planning, and AFoCR lead the fundraising effort, which was kicked off with  a $200,000 grant from the government of the Czech Republic.  Mr. Duda, Mr. Malek, and Czech entrepreneur Zdeněk Bakala each made gifts of $100,000. Finally, individual AFoCR donors collectively contributed almost $100,000.
 
Construction of the project began in November 2014 with a groundbreaking attended by Czech Prime Minister Sobotka and Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Mr. Malek spoke about his appreciation of the importance of Sokol while growing up in Berwyn, a suburb of Chicago with strong Czech traditions, and the importance the Sokol facility was to the community in West. He noted that helping Czech communities with recovery when tragedy strikes is a key AFoCR priority.
        
Special guests at the dedication included Czech Ambassador Petr Gandalovič, current Texas Governor Greg Abbott, AFoCR directors, and leaders of the American Sokol Organization.  Governor Abbott and Mary Beth Dulock, Secretary of Sokol West, cut the symbolic red ribbon to open the new gym, alongside Ambassador Gandalovič and Mr. Malek.  In his remarks, Mr. Malek congratulated the city of West on its enormously successful recovery and expressed his sense of privilege that AFoCR could play a key role in the creation of the new facility.  At the close of the ceremony AFoCR directors Robert Doubek and Phil Kasik unveiled a plaque acknowledging the major contributors to the project.  The master of ceremonies for the dedication was Bob Podhrasky, First Vice President of American Sokol and President of Sokol Southern District.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

The Gratias Agit Award (shown here in this photo) was established by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1997 to recognize prominent individuals and organizations throughout the world for their promotion of the good name of the Czech Republic abroad.  AFoCR received the Gratias Agit in 1998 for its advocacy of the Czech Republic’s admission to NATO.

AFoCR advocates for the Czech Republic, especially for its admission to the key institutions that assure security and partnership with the western democracies, most notably NATO and the European Union. AFoCR sponsors events and special projects that promote interest in the Czech Republic, and facilitates programs in a variety of fields.  Mostly notably, AFoCR made substantial grants to Czech cities and town to deal with the 2002 floods.  It built the Masaryk Memorial in Washington and rebuilt the Woodrow Monument in Prague.  AFoCR has organized and held six Gala Award Dinners and has participated in three White House State Dinners. It has hosted numerous visitors from the Czech Republic, including the President and Prime Ministers.

The following article, published in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, November 15, 2014 is by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka who will be in Washington the week of November 17, 2014 for a meeting at the White House , the unveiling of the Havel Bust in the US Capitol and the groundbreaking in West for a new Sokol West. There will be celebrations the entire week of November 17 in Washington, DC focusing on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that took place in the Czech Republic.  An itinerary of these events is listed on the Homepage of this web site.  Please enjoy the article.

Václav Havel’s Blueprint for Operating in a Dangerous World

Twenty-five years after the Velvet Revolution, his warnings about passive foreign policy resonate.

By 

BOHUSLAV SOBOTKA

Nov. 14, 2014 6:06 p.m. ET

6 COMMENTS

On Nov. 17, a bust of Václav Havel, writer, Communist-era dissident and president of the Czech Republic, will be unveiled in the U.S. Capitol. On that day nearly 25 years ago, students took to the streets of Prague, triggering mass demonstrations that brought down the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, as the Czech Republic was then known.

Havel, who died in December 2011, was a modest man. He might have gotten a laugh out of such a pompous event. When bidding farewell as president in February 2003, he had this to say: “It all happened so suddenly that I did not even have time to properly consider whether or not I was up to the task.” And yet he oversaw epochal events both at home and abroad and in many ways he was an active participant.

No sooner was he sworn in on Dec. 29, 1989, than President Havel had his foreign-policy mettle tested as he coped with the far-reaching repercussions of the Iron Curtain coming down. The former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe were mired in domestic political and economic woes. They also found themselves in a geopolitical void as the Soviet Union fragmented, and simmering ethnic tensions in the Balkans cast another shadow over the future.

Havel was acutely aware of the ills and wrongs of the world. While to some he may have seemed a naive idealist, he was convinced that noble ideals should guide his country’s foreign policy to help it stay on a righteous path.

Drawing on his own experience of living under and relentlessly fighting against a suffocating Communist regime, President Havel had a powerful story with which to capture the world’s imagination. He represented the power of ideas and personal courage to stand for what one believes is right and just despite seemingly insurmountable odds. He went on to demonstrate that such ideals have a proper place in international politics and diplomacy.

Shortly after his election, Havel appeared before a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Feb. 21, 1990, to deliver an analysis of developments in Czechoslovakia and neighboring countries. Despite many challenges and difficulties consuming the governments of states formerly in the Soviet sphere to put their Communist past behind them, Havel stressed that these countries would have to become less inward looking.

Václav Havel in Prague after being elected Czechoslovakia’s president, Dec. 29, 1989.ENLARGE

Václav Havel in Prague after being elected Czechoslovakia’s president, Dec. 29, 1989.GETTY IMAGES

He spoke bluntly to Congress: “For many years, Czechoslovakia as someone’s meaningless satellite has refused to face up honestly to its co-responsibility for the world. It has a lot to make up for. If I dwell on this and so many important things here, it is only because I feel, along with my fellow citizens, a sense of culpability for our former reprehensible passivity—and a rather ordinary sense of indebtedness.”

Having thus demonstrated a commitment to building a more responsible world politics—not through sheer idealism but with practical steps like owning up to one’s responsibility—Havel set out to advance his cause by taking those steps. He was an effective advocate for the Czech Republic in its quest to join NATO and the European Union, which the Czech Republic joined in 1999 and 2004, respectively. He saw both organizations as pillars of international stability. He saw them as means to guarantee the Czech Republic’s return to a community of Western democracies, where it had belonged before the advent of Communist totalitarianism.

Yet Havel also recognized the responsibilities and commitments stemming from his country’s membership. While not all has been achieved as hoped for after the fall of communism, the Czech Republic under his presidency made immense strides, not least in a foreign policy that actively promotes human rights and offers assistance to countries undergoing political transitions. The republic became fully integrated in NATO and the EU. Our country has been a strong proponent of international law and the U.N. system. Czech soldiers serve alongside their allies in international operations around the world, be it in Afghanistan, the Balkans or Mali. But what’s more important is that the Czech Republic has achieved Havel’s vision of it as a normal country, a member of the international community ready to shoulder its share of responsibility.

Today’s Europe is more prosperous and united than ever before, in no small measure thanks to people like Havel. Yet the world in many ways remains dangerous and unpredictable. Militant separatism and the spread of violent extremism present daunting challenges. For instance, Russia’s actions to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty constitute an unprecedented breach of one of the key principles of international law. Such challenges must be met with an international effort.

One can choose to ignore dangerous trends in the world by believing that someone else will deal with them—but this is shortsighted and never pays off. Today’s interconnected world more than ever puts a special premium on international cooperation. Europe must step outside of its post-Cold War shadow and raise its profile on the world stage in order to become more active in promoting development, preventing conflicts and stimulating prosperity. Borrowing from Václav Havel’s principled foreign policy must become our shared responsibility for upholding our values and principles.

Mr. Sobotka is prime minister of the Czech Republic.

 

 

AFoCR Sponsored Children from Destroyed Texas Town's Visit to the Czech Republic

Washington, DC  October 22, 2013 -- The American Friends of the Czech Republic, in collaboration with the Bohemian 
Benevolent and Literary Association and the Czech Embassy, recently collaborated to sponsor the visit of four 
West, Texas children.

West is a small Texas town known for its strong Czech heritage, and it suffered extensive damage from an industrial 
explosion in April.
The Mayor of Kunovice invited the West children to the renowned International Children’s Folklore Festival to help
them recover from the devastation and gain insight into their native country’s language and culture.

Jared Janek, Daniel Gerik, Mary Kathleen Janek, and Holly Soukup, residents of West, Texas ranging in age from 
13 to 16, won the opportunity to visit the Czech Republic by writing the winning essays in a contest entitled "What 
does it mean to be Czech?”

(Photo by Zdenek Kucera, Kunovice, Czech Republic, courtesy of Miroslav Konvalina, Public Outreach Director, US Embassy Prague - American Center)


Standing (left to right): Larry and Kathy Podsednik, Sponsors; Jared Janek, Mary Kate Janek, Holly Soukup, Daniel Gerik - Student Ambassadors; Karen Bernsen, Interim Director West Long Term Recovery; Seated (left to right)Clarice and Raymond Snokhous, Honorary Counsul General of the Czech Republic for the State of Texas.

For questions and additional information kindly contact: 

Dr. Magdalena Vosalikova, CzechPR, Prague - vosalikova@czechpr.cz

Lillis Werder, AFoCR Communications Director, Washington - Email:  lillisphotography@yahoo.com

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
AFoCR Supports Disaster Relief for West, Texas
   
American Friends of the Czech Republic (AFoCR) offered to the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the USA Petr Gandalovic cooperation with the Embassy of the Czech Republic to coordinate donations and aid to assist the town of West, Texas, which was severely damaged by an explosion and fire.
     
Please consider donating through the Click&Pledge feature of this site for disaster aid for the town of West or click here:
 
 
Your donation is tax deductible.  Your contribution, no matter how small, makes a difference. Thank you!
 
Please send checks payable to AFoCR
West, Texas Disaster Relief Fund
4410 Massachusetts Avenue NW # 391
Washington DC 20016-5572 
 
Havel Place Dedication at Georgetown University Campus, October 2, 2013
 
On Wednesday, October 2, a memorial to former Czech President Vaclav Havel was dedicated in Alumni Square courtyard in Georgetown University near Washington, D.C.  The celebration began in Gaston Hall with speeches honoring Havel. Former Secretary of State and Georgetown professor Madeleine Albright, a longtime friend of Havel, spoke extensively about his life and work.  It also featured a video presentation with testimonials from friends and associates including journalist Fareed Zakaria, singer Suzanne Vega, the Dalai Lama, writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and Anglo-Czech playwright Tom Stoppard.  “He was a benign, kind person, so it’s somewhat of a miracle that he ended up as president of anything,” Stoppard quipped in the video.  Hundreds of dignitaries, faculty and students migrated from there to the memorial surrounded by Czech flags and jingling keys. Paper carnations lined the sidewalks.  At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, performed by Havel's widow Dagmar Havlová, AFOCR Chairman Fred Malek spoke about the memorial.  “[It’s a] modest tribute … but fitting, because it signifies the man and what he stood for,” Malek said.  Havel passed away two years ago and was known as a great playwright, dissident, and human rights activist under communist rule in Czechoslovakia.  He made the successful transition to politician after the Velvet Revolution ended the country's totalitarian rule without bloodshed.  The memorial was established with help from the Embassy of the Czech Republic, the Václav Havel Library in Prague and the American Friends of the Czech Republic.  It features the national symbol of the Czech Republic, a linden tree, with a chair on either side, immersed in pea gravel and a stone wall with a memorial plaque around the back. Georgetown was selected as the host site since Havel visited the institution on his first trip to the U.S.
 
Vaclav Havel's Place serves to commemorate President Havel and his legacy.  Ths site consists of a linden tree, the national tree of the Czech Republic, symbolically presented by the Czech Embassy.  The tree is encircled by a beautifully created seating area exclusively designed by Havel's court architect Borek Sipek and provided by the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague. The surrounding grounds are designed by American landscape architect Tomi Landis and funded by the American Friends of the Czech Republic.  As Havel valued the instrumental role that students played in the Velvet Revolution, Georgetown University was one of the first places that Vaclav Havel visited after the fall of the Communist regime.  May Vaclav Havel's Place at Georgetown University be a reminder of Havel's leadership and serve as a living memorial in tribute to his extraordinary life and legacy.
 

Ambassador Žantovský Delivers Thought-Provoking Freedom Lecture for 2013

AFoCR announces another successful  Czech and Slovak Freedom Lecture.  This year the speaker was Ambassador Michael Žantovský, Czech Ambassador to Great Britain and former ambassador to Israel and the US.  His talk, the 13th in the series, is entitled: The Uncertainty of Freedom and the Freedom of Uncertainty.  This series was created to commemorate and honor the legacy of the 1989 Velvet Revolution.  It is held annually in cooperation with the Czech and Slovak Embassies, AFoCR, the Friends of Slovakia, and the Wilson International Center for Scholars.  Their Global Europe Program was the co-host of the event

For those who could not attend the lecture on November 12 in Washington, we are fortunate to have access to the online posting by The Center of both the video and the text.  The video includes the talk, Q&A session and the presentation by Tom Dine at the close of the talk.

View this thought provoking essay on our shared values of a free and open society and the risks and responsibilities that accompany it.

Here is the link to the video:

http://youtu.be/z_xD3vNitog

 

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